Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Willis Tower
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Willis Tower (1974) Bruce Graham, designer, Fazlur Khan, structural engineer, Skidmore Owings & Merrill, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

It was once the tallest building in the world and was called Sears. As of today, it is the tallest building in the United States and bears the name Willis. But whatever you want to call it, the 110-story tubular structure still punctuates the downtown Chicago skyline like a boxy exclamation point.

  [Willis Tower, 233 S. Wacker Drive, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Before there was a Wal Mart, Chicago-based Sears Roebuck & Co. was the world's largest retailer. In the late 1960s the company decided that they needed to consolidate their marketing and merchandising divisions into one physical plant. Their division offices were located in several different buildings scattered around nearby Chicago suburbs and Chairman and CEO Gordon Metcalf thought the operation was inefficient and a waste of money. Metcalf was scouting various suburban locations when Chicago's mayor Richard J. Daley proposed locating the 7,000 person workforce in the heart of the city. Sears was reluctant, they needed approximately 2 million square feet of space but were open to the idea, so the hunt for a large plot of land within the city's central business district got underway.

 [Willis Tower, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Luckily for those involved in the search, banker Bernard Feinberg, attorney Albert Rubenstein and real estate investor Phillip Teinowitz had a piece of property that might fit the bill. In 1964 the partners had acquired 3 buildings and the land underneath them at the edge of downtown Chicago on the west side of Franklin Street at Jackson Boulevard. Over the next 5 years the trio purchased 12 more buildings from over 100 disparate and distantly located owners, and became the proud owners of an entire city block bounded by Franklin, Jackson Wacker Drive and Adams Street. Sears found the parcel appealing. It was located close to suburban commuters lines coming into the nearby Northwestern and Union Stations, the el, and would not require the retailer to try and cobble together their own large piece of land, so a deal was struck. The company selected architect Bruce Graham and his team at Skdmore Ownings and Merrill to design the building - the same firm that had recently completed the towering John Hancock Building on Michigan Avenue.

  [Sears - Willis Tower /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Although Sears owned all of the private property encompassing the block, the city owned the public alley that divided the parcel in two. Quincy Court had once been a street back-in-the-day, but now served as a delivery alleyway. The city sold the 18 foot wide stretch of asphalt for $2,767,500, and the company had the entire parcel at their disposal. Sears wanted large floor plates - in the 100,000 square foot range - but architect Graham cautioned the mass merchandiser that a floor area that large would never appeal to anyone other than Sears and proposed a smaller, more flexible floor plan. The now famous clustered tubes with their 75-feet of column-free open floor spans, were Graham and structural engineer Fazlur Khan's solution. The building's unique stacked-box appearance gave the owners floor plates of 50,000 square feet in the largest cluster of nine tubes. As the building rose higher and higher a tube or two would be eliminated so that by the time you got up to the tower's 110th floor, only two tubes remained standing, offering-up more easily leaseable space in the 11,000 square foot range.
Sears fortunes declined in the intervening decade, and moved from their signature   branded building in 1992 to suburban Hoffman Estates. The company was able to grab $815 million in equity out of the tower, which along with with state subsidies and a virtual gift of 786 acres of land, helped make the move out of the city for the "new" Sears much easier. The tower's name was changed in 2009 when Willis Group Holdings purchased the naming rights and moved into 180,000 of Sears former 2 million square feet of space. Many people still call the tower Sears, and a few - Big Willie.

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Holy Trinity Cathedral, Chicago (1903) Louis H. Sullivan, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1898 architect Louis Sullivan designed and oversaw the construction of a foundry building for Crane Co. manufacturers of, among other things, plumbing fixtures. The architect, known world-wide for his florid decorative designs, was no stranger to the plain-jane industrial building. He and his former partner Dankmar Adler had done a number of very straightforward factory buildings during their productive and landmark producing 15 years together, but partner-less since 1895, a commission was a commission.

[Holy Trinity Cathedral, 1121 N. Leavitt Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

   Back in 1892 plumbing fixture king Richard T. Crane had partnered with Westinghouse to produce air brakes for the Trans Siberian Railroad. The industrialist sent his son Charles to the expansive Russian countryside to oversee the Crane interests. As a result of his experience there Charles R. Crane became a devotee of all things Russian, and when Father John Kochurov and the parishioners of Chicago's St. Vladimir's Russian Greek Orthodox Church were looking to build a house of worship in 1898, the Cranes knew of an architect who might be interested.

 [Holy Trinity Cathedral, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Sullivan was busy working on designs for the proposed Schlesinger & Mayer Department Store when discussions began on designing a church for the Orthodox congregation. Using Crane's extensive library of architectural images gathered from his Trans-Siberian adventures, Sullivan came-up with a design for a building that fit the congregation's budget and harkened back to the motherland. The original scheme included a multi-colored exterior stenciled with Sullivan's signature decorative patterns. The inspiration may have come from the polychromed exterior of the architect's Transportation Building, built for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. The octagonal tower over the main sanctuary of the church also bore a striking resemblance to the eight-sided tower at the center of massive World's Fair structure.

  [Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral, City of Chicago Landmark /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Sullivan chose to wave his usual 10% fee on the final cost of construction, and was paid $1,250 for his services on the $27,104.37 project. Unfortunately there still wasn't enough money to get the smooth stucco surface of the exterior painted the way the architect had hoped for, nor was there enough money left for any of the elaborate Sullivanesque stencilling on the interior - that would come later. The architect did get in a few signature touches added to the trim work around the windows, the towers, and the small canopy over the front entry door. But overall he chose to a design building that paid homage to the small, country church often found out in the boondocks of the vast Russian empire.

  [Holy Trinity Cathedral, Ukrainian Village Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The cornerstone was laid in April, 1902 "founded in honor and memory of Saint Trinity, in the reign of the most pious autocrat, Nikolai Alexandrovitch, Emperor of all the Russias, Theodore Roosevelt being President of the United States." The Tsar had donated anywhere from $2,500 to $8,000 - depending on the source and the correct conversion of the Russian ruble into dollars. The new Holy Trinity Russian Greek Orthodox Church became Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox cathedral in 1922, and today serves a dwindling number of congregants as Holy Trinity Cathedral of the Orthodox Church in America. Sullivan's jewel box of a church is in need of restoration and rehabilitation and funds are being raised by the Friends of Holy Trinity to insure that this little church on Leavitt Street lasts another 110 years.
David Stern - Henry Elkan Double House
by: chicago designslinger

[David Stern - Henry Elkan Double House (1886) /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When the double house located at 1520-22 N. Dearborn Parkway was constructed in the mid-1880s, the address was 592-94 and Dearborn was just an Avenue. The two-houses-in-one structure joined a growing community of new residences cropping-up on land once occupied by the Catholic cemetery, from Dearborn east to the Lake Michigan shoreline, in an emerging neighborhood that would come to be called the Gold Coast.

   [David Stern - Henry Elkan Double House, 1520-22 N. Dearborn Parkway, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Inhabitants David Stern and Henry Elkan - at Nos. 592 and 594 respectively - weren't exactly in the uppermost strata of the social class moving into the area, but they had achieved their version of the American dream. Both men were born into working class families in the Kingdom of Württemberg, one of the 39 sovereign states that made-up the German Federation. They emigrated to the U.S., ended-up in Chicago in the mid-1860s, opened a hide and tannery business, and did quite well for themselves.

  [David Stern - Henry Elkan Double House, Gold Coast National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Chicago once had over 200 tanneries boiling and pounding animal hides into leather. The smelly process filled the air of a string of communities located in and around the north branch of the Chicago River's industrial belt - a hub of the city's tanning business. H. Elkan & Co. however chose another near north side community to stink-up, the former industrial and warehouse area in and around their plant on Hubbard Street (once named Michigan) near Wells Street, which is now part of Chicago's chic River North neighborhood.

  [David Stern - Henry Elkan Double House /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Stern's son David went to work for his father's company after graduating from the University of Michigan in 1902 and continued to live with his mother on the Stern side of the double house after his father's death in 1908. On the other side of the common wall, the Elkan household had grown to include not only Mr & Mrs. Henry Elkan, but Mr. & Mrs. L.N. Elkan, Dr. L.H. Elkan a member of the Leather Chemists Association, and Mr. & Mrs. Joseph L. Friedman. Ten years later, the Sterns were gone, and the Elkan household had shrunk to just the Friedmans and their daughter Helen. Friedman, at the time, was the president of Celebrated Players Film Corporation, a distribution company that exhibited silent films in an 8 state territory that extended from Chicago to Kentucky and from Wisconsin to Nebraska. By 1929 the Friedmans were gone and the home was occupied by the well-connected family of prominent Chicago attorney Morris L. Johnston, who had moved to the Gold Coast from the once elite, and declining, Prairie Avenue.
The 126-year-old houses have survived surprisingly intact and have been updated and restored. In the process, the Stern-Elkan double house was given a very dramatic, two-sided, steel-framed staircase, sweeping its way up to the matched set of side-by-side entry doors - Stern on the left, Elkan on the right.
Six North Michigan - Montgomery Ward & Co. Tower Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Six North Michigan - Montgomery Ward & Co. Tower Building (1899) Richard E. Schmidt, architect; (1926) addition Holabird & Roche, architects; (2004) adaptive reuse; De Stefano Partners, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1887 Aaron Montgomery Ward moved his mail order catalog business from Wabash Avenue over to nearby Michigan Avenue. The Chicago-based dry goods merchant had hit it big by offering people in remote parts of the country the opportunity to select thousands of items from the convenience of their own homes. From hair brushes to harnesses, Ward's catalog was a hefty five pound offering of more products than anyone could imagine, and after mailing-in your order to the Chicago warehouse, your package was delivered directly to your door - or nearby post office. He was the Jeff Bezos and of his day.

  [Six North Michigan - Montgomery Ward & Co. Tower Building, 6 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The brick, 6-story Michigan Avenue building he purchased for $285,000 had been designed by architects Beers Clay & Dutton in 1885 for the U.S. Storage Company. The new location would give the catalog king the space he needed to warehouse his goods as well as the teams of workers who processed over 15,000 orders a day. In 1891, with business booming, Ward & Co. expanded to the south and added two floors to their existing brick structure. Then in 1898 with increasing sales and a catalog whose page count grew as profits flourished, the company announced that architect Richard E. Schmidt would design a tall towering building for the parcels of property that extended further to the south, ending at the northwest corner of Madison Street and Michigan. The main mass of the 12-story structure would house offices and warehouse space, with interior floors that could handle the stressful loads produced by tons and tons of merchandise. Above the bulky base, a slim 7-story tower would rise above the Madison & Michigan corner, topped-off by a 3-story pyramid-like cap, crowned with a belfry - minus the bells - with a statue titled "Progress Lighting the Way for Commerce" standing on tip-toe at its peak. By the time construction got underway however the tower had moved to the middle of the building's park-facing front, and when it was completed in 1899, the structure was the tallest in the city.

  [Six North Michigan - Montgomery Ward & Co. Tower Building, Historic Michigan Boulevard District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The combined Michigan Avenue properties were a beehive of activity, and a cut-away illustration of the interior produced in 1900 showed the entire complex buzzing with worker bees. Ward loved this location and its Grant Park frontage. He became a powerful advocate for the park, and fought a constant battle in the courts trying to keep the area between Michigan Avenue and the lake "forever Open, Clear & free of any buildings" as was clearly written on one of the first city maps in 1836. He lost some battles, but won big when the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the open space champion in 1900. A big change came to the tower building itself however in the early 1920s when an extra four floors were added to the structure, wrapping around the 7-story tall tower and shrinking it to just 3-stories. An off-with-their-heads alteration substantially changed the appearance of the Michigan Avenue property in 1947 when the pyramid-shaped top piece was torn-off, and the once towering tower shrunk even further.

  [Six North Michigan - Montgomery Ward & Co. Tower Building /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Ward company had actually began to undertake a move from their park view location 35 years before the tower's cap was guillotined. Richard Schmidt and his design partner Hugh Garden designed a new building for the catalog and warehouse divisions which opened in 1909 on Chicago Avenue along the north branch of the river. The orginal structure eventually grew into an enormous warehouse/office compound that served as the company's headquarters into the 21st century. Ward's old Beers, Clayton & Dutton building on Michigan Avenue was sold in 1912 for a tidy $1,295,000, and in 1947 the French perfume company Lucien Lelong - looking to establish a beachhead in the States - purchased the Tower Building for $2,300,000. In the 1960s, a large illuminated sign with that read "Almer Coe" was secured to the upper portion of the truncated tower, which became a landmark of sorts along the Michigan Avenue street wall until it was dismantled in the 1980s. Now the former beehive's 8-story brick building houses offices while the tower building houses residents. And the park that Montgomery Ward worked so hard to preserve is one of the most visited places in the city - and the state.
Spertus Jewish Learning and Culture Center Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Spertus Jewish Learning and Culture Center Building (2007) Krueck & Sexton, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

There isn't another building quite like it along Chicago's stunner of a street wall where Michigan Avenue fronts Grant Park. In 2007 architects Ron Krueck and Mark Sexton's many-faceted glass-walled building for the Spertus Institute joined a collection of comfortably familiar late 19th and early 20th century structures, but didn't look anything like them. It pushed established boundaries, was controversial, and nudged the band of cliff-like buildings toward the 21st century.

[Spertus Jewish Learning and Culture Center Building, 610 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Today it is known simply as Spertus, but when the college/museum/library started life in 1924 it was simply named for its intended purpose - the Chicago College of Jewish Studies. The institution was created as a training ground for young men and women in the Midwest who could then go back into their communities and teach their primarily Yiddish and English-speaking youngsters Hebrew, as well as Jewish history and religion. There were no quotas or discrimination based on sex, but in 1935 Benjamin Berenbaum was the only male in a class of eight graduates, which was fairly typical of the time. Many of these recently degreed teachers took their diplomas back into the familiar surroundings of Chicago's west side North Lawndale neighborhood, where 40% of the entire metropolitan areas Jewish community lived.

    [Spertus Jewish Learning and Culture Center Building, Historic Michigan Boulevard District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The college was centrally located in downtown Chicago, and moved from one location to the next before settling into a building at 72 E. 11th Street in 1946. In the 1960s and 70s Maurice and Herman Spertus, brothers who had made a fortune manufacturing picture frames, became major donors of the institution which resulted in a name change for the college. Maurice also donated hundreds of items related to Judaic history which helped establish an in-house museum at the newly dubbed Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies. Herman continued to be a major benefactor right-up until his death in 2006 at the age of 105.

  [Spertus Jewish Learning and Culture Center Building /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1974 the college moved from 11th street and into a 60-year-old building at 610 S. Michigan Avenue, which had had its original decorative terra-cotta facade stripped-off in a 1950s-era remodel, but the utilitarian interior serviced its purpose. Before Herman's death, the Spertus Institute began talking about erecting a new building on the vacant piece of land next door and began raising funds. After looking at several architectural firms from around the world, Chicago-based Krueck & Sexton were selected. Their design, with its glass front and airy interior, perfectly encapsulated the sense of openess and accessibility that the Institute was trying to convey. There was a glitch in the works however when it came to the faceted facade. In 2002 the city had declared the Michigan Avenue street wall extending from Randolph Street south to Roosevelt Road an historic landmark district, which applied to buildings built between 1882 and 1930. The architects multi-angled glass face looked nothing like the protected building fronts along the row, and would break the visual cohesion. Only thing was, the row wasn't all that cohesive anyway. Although not landmarked under the criteria set by the city, the landmark 1958 modern classic Borg-Warner Building, along with buildings like the 1960s-era blue-skinned Esssex House and Congress Hotel addition, had already broken-up the masonry-fronted buildingscape. So although there was some harrumphing, once Mayor Richard M. Daley signed-off on the plan, the Krueck & Sexton building was constructed as designed, and the district entered the new millennium.
Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation (1922) Dubin & Eisenberg, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Change. It's inevitable. Sometimes we create changes in our lives, sometimes change simply inflicts itself upon you. In the early 1880s a group of Hungarian Jews chose to leave their Eastern European homeland and come to America. They were looking to change their lives in a country where the streets paved with gold and settled into a people-packed, ramshackle Chicago neighborhood centered around Halsted & 12th Street (today's Roosevelt Road). Some joined-in with the throngs of peddlers selling goods out and along Maxwell Street, everyone scrapped by, and in 1884 they organized Agudath Achim congregation.

  [Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation, 5029 N. Kenmore Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The move across the ocean paid-off for many of the congregations members. By 1907 they found themselves in a financially secure enough position to be able to leave Maxwell and Halsted Streets behind and build a 3-story, neo-classically designed synagogue on the northeast corner of Marshfield and Polk Street that cost the very princely sum of $50,000. The neighborhood around Polk and Ashland Boulevard was changing. Many of the original upper-middle class Protestant settlers were moving out, and the emerging middle class of immigrant Jewish settlers was moving in. At the time that Agudath Achim began holding services in their new home the Hebrew Literary Society was located around the corner on Ashland and Polk, and in 1910 Anshe Sholom Synagogue was built on the northeast corner of Polk and Ashland, a neo-classical temple constructed on a grander scale than Agudath Achim, and on a much more prominent corner.

[Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The 1920s brought even more changes. Many of the original Maxwell Street immigrants had moved beyond Ashland & Polk, farther west, out into the Lawndale neighborhood around Douglas Park, where they created the largest Jewish enclave in the city. By the early 20s some of those first North Lawndale settlers were already ready for a change and moved to the tonier north side. They established the North Shore Congregation Sons of Israel in 1918, and settled-in on North Kenmore Avenue not far from the shoreline of Lake Michigan. The leaders of Adudath Achim soon saw the handwriting-on-the-wall and knew it was time to change addresses as well. By 1922 most of their membership had moved in and around the Uptown/Edgewater neighborhood where North Shore had just formed their congregation and a deal was struck, a merger created, and Agudath Achim North Shore Congregation was born.

    [Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Their one level building grew to another story, then another, they purchased the house next door, and 20 years later built a community center. But soon after the school center building was completed in 1948, change slowly began to seep into the community. The end of the Second World War brought the kind of prosperity those first immigrants had dreamed of, and with it changes that would forever alter the fabric of urban America. Low-cost G.I. government-backed housing loans, the ability to buy a car, and miles of and miles of expressways to drive them on, gave many of the members of Agudath Achim North Shore Congregation the opportunity to leave their "old" neighborhood and move-on-up to the suburbs. By the 1980s 25 years of economic decline had taken a toll on the surrounding area, and Agudath was changed to Agudas. The mid-90s saw a revival of sorts for the synagogue when emigrating Soviet Jews found a home in the crumbling interior. The original ground floor sanctuary was spruced-up in the hopes that an invigorated congregation would find the funds to renovate and restore architects Dubin & Eisenberg's main floor sanctuary. But with an aging congregation dependent on Social Security as their primary source of income, the upper floor of Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation's synagogue continues to deteriorate, in the hope that things will change.
Caton Street, Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

[2146, 2142, 2138 W. Caton Street (1891) Faber & Pagels, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

As the late 1880s moved toward the early 1890s, there was a triangular section in the Wicker Park neighborhood that sat as empty and free of structures as the original prairie landscape the surrounding built-up community had emerged from. There wasn't much undeveloped land left in the vicinity of northwest side neighborhood's six-cornered intersection of Damen, North & Milwaukee which was emerging as one of the city's major retail hubs, and the vacant triangle was ripe for development.

[Marius Kirkeby House, 2138 W. Caton Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Leavitt Street, the long vertical side of the section of land, ran northward from North Avenue, the bottom horizontal side, to meet-up with the angle of Milwaukee Avenue. A street was cut through the center running east to west from Milwaukee to Leavitt and named Columbia. It was small, running only about 600 feet in length, very private feeling, and the perfect spot for 5 large single-family dwellings to be constructed for 4 of the city's emerging, upper-middle-class immigrant businessmen, all designed by the architectural duo of Faber & Pagels.

 [Frederick Gehrke House, 2146 W. Caton Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Wicker Park's first urban settlers were primarily Scandinavian in origin. There were a few Germans thrown in here and there, but immigrant Swedes, Danes and Norwegians made-up most of the surrounding community. Joining their fellow countrymen in the hood, Norwegian nationals Marius Kirkeby president of the Den Norske Klub built one house, Dr. Nels Nelson another, Ole A. Thorp built two, and to shake things up a bit, one was built for Prussian native Frederick Gehrke.

      [Ole A. Thorpe House, 2156 W. Caton Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1913 the city of Chicago renumbered their street grid and renamed a few streets to go along with the changes. Faber & Pagels little street of grand homes went from being called Columbia to Caton - named for Illinois Supreme Court Justice John Caton - and the numbers went from 38, 45, 51, 55 and 59 to 2138, 2142, 2146, 2152, and 2156. The biggest change however came in 1895 when the Metropolitan West Side Railroad built an elevated train track line right next door to Maruis Kirkeby's house, slicing through the eastern end of Columbia. In the mid-1970s, and decades of demographic changes in and around Caton Street, a group of new urban pioneers began to undertake an extensive - and costly - restoration and maintenance of Faber & Pagels sturdy masonry row of single family dwellings. And even though the CTA's elevated train cars still rattle through the neighborhood, because of the current owners efforts and investment, the tiny street still maintains its 19th century, picturesque qualities.
Peoples Gas Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Peoples Gas Building (1911) D.H. Burnham & Co., architects; (1986) renovation, Eckenhoff Saunders Architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Even though they built the building, Peoples Gas hasn't owned their D.H. Burnham & Co. designed structure at the corner of Adams and Michigan Avenue since 1985, and haven't occupied the granite and terra-cotta clad behemoth since 1995. The former Peoples Gas, Light & Coke Co. moved up-the-street into newer more modern quarters, leaving over half of the building's square footage vacant, and yet, 17 years later, the building still bears their name.

  [Peoples Gas Building, 122 S.Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The Peoples Gaslight & Coke Co. - notice that gas and light were once joined together - received a charter from the State of Illinois in 1855 to supply the City of Chicago with natural gas. The coke part of the title came from the tons and tons of coal that the company burned, which was converted into the flame-producing gaseous mixture, and then delivered to customers through an extensive underground system of cast iron pipes. By the late 1870s the invisible-to-the-naked-eye substance also provided fuel for the flames that lit over 35,000 street lamps. In 1885 Peoples moved their offices into a building at the northwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Adams Street where the Pullman Palace Car Company was busy moving out of the 6-story, post-Chicago Fire structure.

  [Peoples Gas Building, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

This northwest corner had once been the site of the large and socially prominent home of Henry H. Honoré. Honoré was a wealthy Chicago businessman and father of two daughters - one of whom married President Ulysses S. Grant's son Frederick, and the other, Bertha, who married the far-richer-than-her-father, Potter Palmer. The Palmer's wedding reception was held in the Honoré home in 1870, and in October 1871 the mansion was one of the hundreds of thousands of dwellings that burned to the ground in the Great Fire. After assessing the post-fire situation, Honoré decided not to build another house, there was money to be made going commercial and he built a typical looking 6-story business block which George Pullman rented in 1872 for the headquarters of his Pullman Palace Company.

  [Peoples Gas Building, Historic Michigan Boulevard District, Chicago/Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

By the early 1880s Pullman's company was expanding and he needed more space, so he hired architect S.S. Beman to design an $800,000 mixed use project for the railroad car manufacturer located directly across Adams Street, and once Pullman moved-out, Peoples Gas moved in. As the 19th century turned into the 20th, Peoples needed more office space and instead of building new and relocating to another part of the city's central business district they chose to stay on their corner - and then some. The company acquired the 4 plots of land to the north of Honoré's building for a total of 196 feet of Michigan Avenue frontage and 171 feet along Adams, then hired one of the city's preeminent architectural firms D.H. Burnham & Co. to design a 21-story structure. Construction began on the north portion of the enlarged site and once that piece of the puzzle was finished the older building was demolished in 1910 and the remaining portion of the $12 million project was completed.
Burnham's exquisite interior light court disappeared in a 1950s remodel to create more office space, and after Peoples sold the building in 1985 the new owners, First City Development Corporation, spent $55 million to update the aging structure and restore some of its original elements. Unfortunately, the light court wasn't part of the plan.
Jones Commercial High School Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Jones Commercial High School Building (1967) Perkins & Will, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When William Jones was appointed the very first president of a very young Chicago Board of Education in 1840, the expanding school district had two schools aptly, and rather unimaginatively named School #1 and School #2. In 1858, as the population increased and the number of schools grew along with it, the Board decided to ditch the number system, come-up with names for their educational facilities, and dubbed School #2 the William Jones Public School. After the big fire in 1871 burned the school building to the ground, and a second fire 3 years later, a 3-story, Italianate structure was erected in 1875 on the southeast corner of Harrison Street and Plymouth Court (which was known as Third Street back then) still bearing Jones's name.

  [Jones Commercial High School Building, 606 S. State Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Fast forward ten years, the city's population has increased nearly ten fold and the area around Jones Public School has changed - a lot. The school was located at the southern end of the city's central business district which was packed with train yards, smoke, and an ever expanding number of the 19th century's version of men-only, single room occupancy hotels. On November 20, 1885 a Chicago Tribune headlined declared, "The Jones School - Located in the Very Midst of the Vilest, Wickedest Part of the City." The article reported that the school was "surrounded by bed-flats, saloons, meat-markets, cigar stores and other undesirable places. Drunken men shouting at the top of their voices, swearing, cursing, and using ribald language as no innocent child ought to know." And the neighborhood didn't improve much over the intervening decades.

  [Jones Commercial High School Building /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

By 1909 Jones was educating a group of youngsters who lived in some of the city's poorest neighborhoods. The Salvation Army had opened a facility just around the corner on State Street (which eventually morphed into the Pacific Garden Mission) and served donuts, milk and oatmeal to kids in need from the basement of one of the oldest public school structures still standing. In that same year a proposal was put forward to change Jones from a grammar school and into a high school focused on training and educating young men and women in secretarial skills and procedures, an area of job opportunity in the business world that was growing fast and in need of skilled personnel. Think today's IT job market. Architect Dwight Perkins was chosen to design a new building for the site that would include not only a new school, but would also become the headquarters of the Board of Education. Nothing came of the plan until 1938 when the Board finally set-up the high school training program, but instead of a new building to go along with it, the Board simply used the 63-year-old building and rebranded it as Jones Commercial High School. The first student group had over 400 female students, and five male.

  [William Jones College Preparatory High School (2013) Perkins + Will, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Finally, in 1965 the Board realized that the 90-year-old building had outlived its purpose. Architects Perkins & Will drew-up plans for a modern facility to be built on the site of an old, men's-only, "bed-flat" hotel at the southwest corner of State and Harrison Streets, across the alley from the 19th century building. The "Jones girls" would no longer be required to walk up the stairs of the old building while balancing books on their heads in the poise exercises the school was famous for, and would soon be able to walk down bright, wide, modern corridors - book balanced and poised as ever.
By the late 1990s the modern business world had moved a little bit beyond the stereotypical coffee-serving, typewriter-bound, straight-backed, gloved-handed, perfectly-coiffed, female secretary. Jones had schooled thousands of young girls in how to type a zillion words a minute, take expert dictation, use punch card machines, computers, and the appropriate - and tasteful - use of make-up. The school became one of the city's magnet locations, and then the William Jones College Preparatory High School. To go along with the new name and educational mission, a state-of-the-art building is being constructed just to the south of the 60s-era structure, designed once again by Perkins + Will. There are plans to tear down the "old" building, but as of yet the city's Public Building Commission hasn't made a definitive decision. But, after 154 years of change, the name remains the same.
Goodman Theatre Center/Harris Selwyn Theatres
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Goodman Theatre Center/Harris Selwyn Theatres (2000) Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg, principal architects; DLK Architecture, supervising architects (1922) C. Howard Crane & H. Kenneth Franzheim, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In May 1920 New York producers, theater owners and brothers, Archie and Edgar Selwyn formed a partnership with fellow New Yorkers Arthur Hopkins and producer Sam Harris. The Selwyns were under contract at the time to build a Chicago outpost on the southwest corner of Dearborn and Lake Streets - two side-by-side, 1,000-seat theaters, to be known as the Chicago and Selwyn Theatres. By the time architects Howard Crane and Kenneth Franzheim's neo-classical Italian Renaissance and English Georgian inspired playhouses opened to the public in 1922, the theaters were known as the Harris and Selwyn.

[Goodman Theatre Center, 170 N. Dearborn Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

It was a plum job for two young up-and-coming architects. Crane was based in Detroit and had a pretty prominent theater commission already under his belt, Detroit's Orchestra Hall, which had its debut in 1919. In 1920-22 he was also busy at work designing the first of what would become a string of great motion picture movie palaces, Detroit's Capital Theater. Franzheim teamed-up with Crane in 1920 and oversaw the construction of the dual theater project in Chicago before moving on to Boston and finally settling into a productive practice - under his own name - in Houston, Texas. Although the theaters appear to be the same on the outside, if you look closely, there are hints in the exterior decor of what historical architectural period audiences would find on the interior once they stepped through the doors. The Harris was much more elaborate and emotionally vigorous, much like its 16th century Renaissance-era Italy inspiration. The Selwyn on the other hand was much more sedate and restrained in its 17th Georgian-inspired decor, much like the stereotypical picture of stiff-upper-lipped Britishness.

   [Goodman Theatre Center/Harris Selwyn Theatres, City of Chicago Landmark /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

By the mid-1960s, the theater district centered around nearby Randolph Street began to change. The Harris and Selwyn had once shared a city block with the Woods, the Garrick and the Olympic. The Olympic was now a parking lot, and Louis Sullivan's Garrick would soon be as well. The Harris & Selwyn had been purchased by Chicago native and Hollywood impresario Mike Todd, who converted the playhouses into large screen movie theaters accompanied by his Todd A-O sound system, and renamed them the Michael Todd and Cinestage Theatres. After Todd's death in an airplane crash in 1958 the theaters - which remained under the ownership of his widow Elizabeth Taylor for the next 20+ years - exhibited movies under lease agreements with a number of theater chains, including a period of XXX adult-rated fare. The buildings film exhibition era came to an end in 1987, the theaters were closed for good, and in 1989 their next door neighbor, the Woods, was closed as well, and the building demolished.

  [Goodman Theatre Center /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1988 Chicago's Goodman Theatre company began looking for a new home. Their 1925 Howard Van Doren Shaw designed Art Institute-adjacent basement theater was outdated and outmoded. Ten years later the Goodman announced they were moving to the city's newly revived Randolph Street theater district with plans to demolish the crumbling interiors of the Harris and Selwyn while building a new, from the ground-up theater and office building on the site of the former Woods building. And the Goodman complex was the first purpose-built, live theatrical performance venue to rise in the Loop in over 75 years.
Thomas W. Hinde House
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Thomas W. Hinde House (1892) Douglas S. Pentecost, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Douglas S. Pentecost could be described as an everyman architect. He never designed or built anything that received much attention, but he had a productive putting-the-food-on-the-table career, drawing-up plans for 2 and 3-flat apartment buildings across the city. Every now and again a single family residential commission came his way, and one, the most frequently mentioned, showed-up in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood in 1892.

  [Thomas W. Hinde House, 1412 N. Astor Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The client was Thomas W. Hinde a Kentucky distiller, who came to the bustling city of Chicago in 1887 and made a fortune selling spirits. Hinde lived with his wife and children in a multi-family townhouse on nearby on Division Street, and with his business booming, decided to make Chicago his home and asked Pentecost for a house on a lot he'd just purchased on Astor Street. The neighborhood was beginning to fill-up with homes of the wealthy and a variety of historical styles were being used to dress-up the facades. Pentecost seems to have found some of his inspiration in far away Flanders since the exterior of the Hinde house had the look and feel of a city dwelling you might find on a street in Ghent.

  [Thomas W. Hinde House, Gold Coast National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Inside the first floor was taken up by an immense entry hall with a large fireplace, molded wood paneling, and a bench seat running under the leaded-glass windows in the bay. By 1909 the Hindes were ready for another move and relocated up-the-street to 1524 N. Astor. Their former home was purchased by attorney Joseph P. Wilson, Jr. for his wife, two young children, and himself. Wilson was no stranger to the area. His father Wilson, Sr. was one of the first residents to build in the neighborhood, on Dearborn Avenue, in 1877. Unfotunately the Wilson's tenure in the house was short-lived. In 1912 Wilson filed for divorce naming the socially prominent Ogden T. McClurg as corespondent, and asking the court for the custody of his toddler-aged children. Wilson moved in with his parents and sold 1412 N. Astor to the William B. Hales. Hale was an attorney as well and knew Wilson, whose firm Wilson, Moore & McIlvaine was one of the city's largest and well connected. Hale was one of the two founders of the Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs in 1922, and by 1928 had joined Wilson's firm, now called Wilson, McIlvaine, Hale & Templeton.
Eventually the house, like many others in the neighborhood, was divivded into smaller, mulit-unit living spaces - which it remains to this day.
Uptown Broadway Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Uptown Broadway Building (1927) Walter W. Ahlschlager, architect; (2008) renovation, Space Architects + Planners /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Glazed terra-cotta. It's been around for eons, but from the later part of the 19th century and the first third of the 20th, it was architect's Play-Doh. If you could come up with a design, the hollow blocks of fired earth could be molded into any shape imaginable, glazed in a variety of colors, and create a fantasy of  facade enhancing forms. Easier to work with than stone, cheaper to produce and sturdier than brick, terra-cotta facades worked their magic on streetscapes across the country, from New York to LA, and most exquisitely in Chicago.

 [Uptown Broadway Building, 4707 N. Broadway, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When Arnold Schlachter and Edward Lundstrom purchased a vacant lot on Broadway just south of Lawrence Avenue in the city's Uptown neighborhood in the mid-1920s, this section of Uptown was turning from a sleepy suburban-like residential community once on the outskirts of the city limits, into a bustling business and entertainment district. The north branch of the city's elevated system - which came to a halt just south of the property at Wilson Avenue - had recently been extended north, creating an interesting, almost perfectly dimensioned 60-degree triangular plot, and ran directly along side the lot's eastern edge. The owners turned to architect Walter Ahlschlager to come-up with a building for their oddly shaped lot, and not intimidated by the site, or the el, Ahlschlager used every square foot of the triangular piece of property in his plan and then covered the Broadway street front in one of the most elaborate, polychromed facades the city had ever seen.

   [Uptown Broadway Building, National Register of Historic Places, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Ahlschlager squeezed every bit of fantastical Spanish Baroque-inspired design he could into the facade of the $400,000 Uptown Broadway Building. The pliable quality of the malleable clay - along with the expertise of the mold makers at Chicago-based Northwestern Terra Cotta Company - produced an explosion of eye-catching shapes and color right-up to the edge of the L's concrete span. And although the nearby Uptown Theatre had a much taller highly decorated facade, architects Rapp & Rapp's white glazed front was a massive monotone of shiny terra-cotta compared to Ahlschlager's three stories of polychromed pizzazz.
The building - and the neighborhood - fell on hard times in the ensuing decades. All of the second floor windows were filled-in with glass block, and pieces of Ahlschlager's terra-cotta decoration were lost to time, weather and thievery. That is until undergoing an extensive $4 million rehab in 2008 overseen by Space Architects + Planners, which restored the building's explosion of Baroque-inspired twits and turns, back to all its former polychromed-enhanced glory.
Michigan Boulevard Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Michigan Boulevard Building (1914/1923) Jarvis Hunt, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

When you commissioned a building from architect Jarvis Hunt you knew you would be getting a solid piece of architecture that wasn't going to push any boundaries, be pleasing to the eye, and come decorated in a historical style of your choosing. As long as you were willing to go along with the architect's vision of how good planning and design could enhance the beauty of the environment it was built in.

  [Michigan Boulevard Building, 30 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Hunt was an early and very vocal proponent of the City Beautiful movement, which had been promoted so effectively to the American public at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and had brought Hunt to the city as the designer of the Vermont State Building. The architect came from a dynastically pedigreed Vermont founding family. His father Leavitt was the son of a Vermont congressman, who was the son of one of Vermont's early pioneers and onetime Lieutenant Governor, Jonathan Hunt, Sr. Jarvis Hunt's mother came from another prominent Vermont family. Her father William Jarvis - who served under Thomas Jefferson's administration as U.S. consul in Lisbon, Portugal - purchased a large estate in Weathersfield, Vermont when he returned to this country, where he raised sheep and made a fortune selling wool. Jarvis Hunt's uncle was the Gilded Age fave, New York-based architect Richard Morris Hunt, the first American to attend the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and a major influence in determining with Daniel Burnham on how the World's Fair was going to look.

  [Michigan Boulevard Building, Historic Michigan Boulevard District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

By the time Jarvis Hunt came around to designing this building on the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Washington Street in 1914, the architect was very familiar with the neighborhood overlooking Grant Park. The planters lining the Avenue's median strip today were first proposed by Hunt in 1903 in an effort to turn the Grant Park fronting street into a grand boulevard with a Parisian flavor. In 1913 he drew-up plans for a major overhaul of the city's scattered, ugly, smoke belching, Loop confining, rail yards and united them into one beautifully planned union station district running south of today's Roosevelt Road from State Street west to the river. His plan also called for straightening a crook in the river at the site - which actually happened 10 years later.
In September, 1912 Hunt along with Milton Trainer and Wallace Clark purchased the land and buildings at Michigan and Washington from Montgomery Ward. Ward's office tower and warehouse filled the rest of the block, but in 1909 the catalog merchant began to relocate his huge mail order operation to a new site fronting the Chicago River at Chicago Avenue, and didn't need the additional property for any further expansion. Hunt's original design for he and his fellow investors included a tower above the center portion of the u-shaped plan of the building, but it never got built. The building did grow by an additional 6 floors in 1923 however, after its original 16 were completed in 1914. Hunt retired in 1927 and moved to Florida where he died 14 years later, three weeks before his 78th birthday. He was buried in the family cemetery in Weathersfield, Vermont.